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Quote of the Day - Democracy is the art of running the circus from the monkey cage. - H. L. Mencken
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The Circus Otherwise Known as Litigation

California has the 5th or 6th largest economy in the world. That's saying a lot, given that we're bigger than France, Italy and China.

Well, Canada, too, but that's not saying a lot.

Heck, we exported over $27 billion in goods in 2002, and more last year.

But, we may be about to export an unlikely service: litigation.

Earlier this week, the California Supremes voted unanimously to hear the case of Snowney v. Harrah's Entertainment. In doing so, the Supremes rejected 1981's Circus Circus Hotels Inc. v. Superior Court, 120 Cal.App.3d 546, in which the 4th District ruled that advertising and toll-free numbers do not confer personal jurisdiction allowing suits in California. The justices called the 23-year-old ruling a "narrow interpretation" that was "unwarranted."

That's right, the seven-ring circus of justices are going to determine whether Harrah's and other hotels such as Circus Circus in Nevada can be pulled over the border to the circus otherwise known as California.

OK, maybe too much clowning around in that last paragraph, but it sounded good. Or maybe you'll like this sound better.

Harrah's advertised over here in California via the web. Well, who doesn't? Reading through the appellate court opinion gives us little clue over the basis for the claim other than unfair competition and false advertising to "high end" customers. Seems that Snowney sued seeking class action status on behalf of all California residents hit with a $3-per-night energy surcharge while staying in Las Vegas, Reno or other gambling towns. He says we were enticed by advertising both on the web and billboards.

A three-dollar charge because we saw ads on billboards? Doesn't sound to high-end to me.

A companion case involving telemarketers is something of the same thing about jurisdiction over a Nebraska telemarketer.

Neither Harrah's nor the Nebraska telemarketer believe they should be here in California answering to California courts. There are many Californians who think the same thing, but the Supremes are about to decide whether the long arm of the law can stretch to other states based solely on advertising in California.

Interesting to lawyers (see it in color), but how does this affect you? Well, if you're out of state, it might if you advertise here, or if you advertise in other states, you can expect the same treatment there.

Long story short? I don't know. Stop advertising. Be ready to get sued. I'm guessing we're going to have litigation as a new export.

Maybe we can ship some lawyers out, too. Now there's an idea.

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Saturday, July 03, 2004 at 09:36 Comments Closed (0) |
 
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